Lessons from rehab


Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh received a B.A. from Skidmore College and was ordained as a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is fortunate to be involved in so many facets of the community including serving as the chaplain for JF&CS and an instructor for CAJE. This will be her fifth year serving as the visiting Rabbi in Decatur, Ill. She has also served congregations in both Sydney and Perth, Australia. When not writing her weekly BLOGS, she can be found running marathons.


It was a brief but meaningful encounter. Interestingly enough, this actually happens with some regularity. As Chaplain for JF&CS, my responsibilities include visiting not only assisted and skilled facilities and the residents who reside there, but individuals undergoing rehabilitation at such places.

I often find myself meeting an individual who normally lives on his/her own, still drives, and is otherwise extremely independent. An unfortunate fall or illness brought him/her to such a place for physical or occupational therapy or both. Once deemed well enough to return home, it is doubtful we will meet again under these auspices.

Conversations with these individuals tends to be detailed and more in depth than my talks with those in assisted or skilled. Many have been widowed for years and have created a very active life. Time in rehab is a bit frightening as the question looms, “Will I go home and return to my normal life?” They tend to be frustrated about a “careless” fall. They push themselves extremely hard to make sure the range of motion returns to an arm, or they can walk again without the presence of a walker. The situation the find themselves in reminds them of life’s fragility.

I have enjoyed some fabulous talks with such people. They are happy to engage and share with me stories of their life, families and how busy they were before they landed “here.”

My unofficial observation is that these people tend to have more visitors. Perhaps it is all about the hope of retuning to life as they know it. They are not quite ready for a new normal.